Last updated: 18.06.13

Sponsored study 'improves employee retention'

Businesses that offer their employees training and development opportunities are more likely to attract and retain staff members.

This is according to Jean Hartley, professor in public leadership at the Open University Business School, who claimed in an article for the Guardian that councils, hospitals and public organisations would benefit from sponsoring workers to study for new qualifications.

Whether they are funded to undertake part-time degree courses that are relevant to their current job or provided with access to online tools, workers who are offered the chance to learn new skills are more likely to stay with a firm than those who are not.

Ms Hartley pointed to the fact that at present, approximately 30 per cent of undergraduates in the UK are mature students who have been in employment for some time and have decided they need new skills to develop their careers.

She further claimed that public organisations can adopt a smarter approach to sponsoring staff in their degrees or e-learning courses by asking themselves a number of questions, including whether there is the opportunity to bulk-buy sponsorship of employees who gain places on a particular course to ensure value for money.

This could involve arranging links with particular educational institutions to create ongoing professional development, taster modules and open online learning.

Ms Hartley explained new thinking and action in sponsoring students could have many benefits for public organisations, "helping them attract and retain staff and bringing in and utilising new ideas and practices in the organisation". "It's high time for a strategic approach," she added.

There are a number of training services available to councils through Virtual College, a West Yorkshire-based e-learning provider. These include its learning management system Enable - which can be adapted to fit the needs of any company - and an online module catalogue overflowing with courses in key workplace issues such as management and safeguarding.

According to Ms Hartley, more than 200 councils are currently sponsoring their employees to undertake Open University degrees, offering them the chance to continue work and study in their spare time.